Canadian Potash Mineworkers' Strike Interrupted De-icer Fluid
In a memo sent to airlines October 29, the Federal Aviation
Administration advised of potential disruptions in air travel
during upcoming winter months due to a shortage of the chemical
used for de-icing runways.
"It is possible that runways may not be able to be maintained to
the same level as previous years during winter storms," the FAA
said. The shortage is predicted to triple the price of de-icer, USA
The supply of potash, a primary ingredient in runway de-icing
fluid, was interrupted earlier this year because of a 99-day strike
by Canadian mine workers. Although now over, the strike forced
manufacturers to shut down production, reducing this year's output
of the de-icer.
Because it will take months to reestablish former production
levels, the FAA advised the overall production of runway de-icer
will likely be only a third or less of previous years. Major
manufacturer Cryotech estimated this year's production of potassium
acetate at only two million to three million gallons, a huge
reduction from last year's nine million gallons.
Michael O'Donnell, FAA's director of Airport Safety and
Standards, said, "The airports have a number of different things
they can do to make up the difference," referring to recently
FAA-approved de-icing products made by several different
Despite increased costs, airport spokesmen from historically
snowy locations seemed determined that their runways will be kept
open and safe, resorting to alternative chemicals if necessary.
Scott Wintner of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport said, "We're
pretty confident that, while it may cost us more, we will be able
to get what we need."
Lawrence Levine, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense
Council, cautioned against the use of unapproved de-icer that could
be environmentally unfriendly, calling it "definitely a step in the
The shortage has no effect on the supply of airplane de-icer
fluid, which is made from a different chemical.